She may be separated from her husband by 5,000 miles including an ocean and be at the centre of a media maelstrom, but the Duchess of Sussex has been busy.
This week, she left the family’s £10.7 million bolthole on Vancouver Island and hopped on a seaplane to visit the offices of Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver city.
It was a remarkably last-minute affair. On Monday, the manager of the vulnerable women’s shelter had received a ‘rather mysterious’ email from a private account belonging to Meghan’s personal assistant, explaining that the duchess wanted to visit organisations that served women in the city.
She may be separated from her husband by 5,000 miles including an ocean and be at the centre of a media maelstrom, but the Duchess of Sussex has been busy
Meghan turned up the next day and photographs from the meeting, showing her surrounded by beaming women, appeared around the world. (It emerged yesterday that security concerns meant that Meghan did not actually set foot inside the centre, instead meeting staff at their offices.)
On Wednesday, Meghan dropped in on another women’s group, where she was snapped discussing ‘climate justice for girls’.
If the visits smack of a savvy, if rather obvious, PR exercise — at a time when the Sussexes’ position within the Royal Family is still unclear and Canadians are debating their rumoured move to Toronto — that shouldn’t be surprising.
Drawing on Meghan’s experience of the entertainment industry, the couple have already assembled an extensive and markedly corporate North American operation to orchestrate their future.
THE ‘BARE-KNUCKLE’ PR GURUS
Sunshine Sachs is a sharp-elbowed U.S. public relations company hired by the Sussexes last year. Clients include Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lopez.
Its founder, Ken Sunshine, notoriously issued strenuous denials on Harvey Weinstein’s behalf when the disgraced film mogul was first accused of sexually abusing women.
Sunshine Sachs is a sharp-elbowed U.S. public relations company hired by the Sussexes last year. Its founder, Ken Sunshine, notoriously issued strenuous denials on Harvey Weinstein’s (pictured together) behalf
His company has also been accused of using ‘bare-knuckle tactics’ in representing its A-list Hollywood clients, including glossing up their entries on online encyclopedia Wikipedia.
Although its principal specialism is ‘crisis management’, the firm recently worked with Meghan on her controversial guest-editorship of British Vogue.
While one of Sunshine’s senior staff, Keleigh Thomas Morgan, represented Meghan in her acting days and remains a close friend, a spokesman for the company has insisted it is only involved in Meghan’s charity affairs.
Just in case the Sussexes don’t have enough well-connected celebrity friends across the Pond, the Duchess can always rely on her best friend, Jessica Mulroney (pictured together)
But this position appears to have changed in recent months as the Duchess is reportedly now primarily relying on Sunshine Sachs, leaving Palace spokesmen ‘out of the loop’.
Indeed, one theory is that it was Sunshine Sachs that leaked plans of the couple’s intention to step away from the Royal Family.
Providing further U.S. expertise, the Sussexes also have Sara Latham, a former senior advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, as their head of communications.
COMPANY IN SECRETIVE U.S. STATE
Prince Harry may have limited experience of working for a living, but his wife has previously proved adept at maximising her revenue.
Meghan’s Tinsletown trinity
Her acting career may be history (apart from Disney voiceovers) but Meghan maintains the traditional backstage triumvirate of Hollywood stars — an agent, a lawyer and a business manager.
Hollywood agent Nick Collins, of The Gersh Agency, whose clients include Tobey Maguire, Kristen Stewart and Adam Driver, is reportedly ‘filtering’ film, TV and philanthropy-related opportunities that come the couple’s way.
Both Amazon and Facebook are rumoured to want to work with them, while an Apple TV project has already been announced.
Collins — a guest at the Sussexes’ wedding as a long-standing friend of Meghan after he represented her when she was in the legal drama Suits — is said to be negotiating a publishing deal for a proposed children’s book by Meghan.
Meanwhile, her Beverly Hills-based business manager, Andrew Meyer, is also involved in sketching out her next move. He, too, has Hollywood experience, as does her LA lawyer, Rick Genow whose other clients include actors Sir Ben Kingsley and Greg Kinnear.
The Duchess has long had her own company — a widely used tax-friendly vehicle in the U.S. for freelancers — called Frim Fram to run her lifestyle blog, The Tig, which she billed as a ‘hub for the discerning palate — those with a hunger for food, travel, fashion and beauty’.
She shut down The Tig in 2017 before she became engaged to Prince Harry, only to renew the trademark last September. Palace officials say she did it to stop others misusing it, but she could now relaunch it.
On December 30 last year, Frim Fram ceased to be registered in California and was effectively reconstituted in Delaware.
The move is highly significant not only in indicating that Meghan will soon be focusing on earning money, but also because Delaware is the ‘Switzerland’ of the U.S., a low-tax state that guarantees levels of corporate secrecy unheard of in the rest of the country.
Registering a company in Delaware doesn’t require the disclosure of the owners’ identities, and all financial information is kept confidential. There’s been speculation that Meghan could also relaunch her lifestyle blog.
It goes without saying that any money she once made endorsing fashion or beauty products as a TV soap actress would be dwarfed by what she could earn now.
Interestingly, Shannyn Yates, listed as the person who incorporated Frim Fram in Delaware, was involved in raising $60 million to set up a new voiceover company, Discovery of Voice.
Prince Harry was recently caught touting his wife’s voiceover abilities to Disney chief Bob Iger and she later did some work for the company in exchange for a donation to the charity organisation Elephants Without Borders.
A CANNABIS WEBSITE DESIGNER
Whatever projects they embark on, the Sussexes have a website design agency to call upon. Article, a Toronto-based business, designed the site for Meghan’s blog, The Tig, and are behind the Sussexes’ new website, sussexroyal.com.
While many in Hollywood have been falling over themselves to get into the Sussex camp, Oprah, the hugely influential TV queen who the couple cannily invited to their wedding, could be particularly useful
The small outfit has also done work for Nickelodeon TV and even a cannabis brand called Tokyo Smoke (cannabis is now legal in Canada).
Ryan Sax, its founder, has said: ‘It’s been a pleasure to work on this website with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex … I’m happy we could create something special for them.’
THE OBAMAS’ TEMPLATE
Although the Obamas deny reports that they’ve quietly been advising their friends Harry and Meghan on stepping away from the Royal Family, they provide an invaluable example of how the Sussexes could ‘monetise their brand’ without antagonising their fans.
Billion-dollar brand empire
Wide-eyed estimates as to what the couple could make from licensing their name and ‘brand’ Sussex Royal have been soaring into the billions.
Others are more cautious and warn of the risks of looking tacky or too greedy.
Either way, the Sussexes could rely on merchandising to make up for any funding shortfall form the public purse.
Six months ago, the couple trademarked 100 items including ‘Royal Sussex’ socks, bandannas, pens, postcards, calendars and T-shirts seemingly in order to bolster their financial independence.
The Obamas have managed to become multi-millionaires since leaving the White House after they started their own production company and signed a deal with the streaming giant Netflix to broadcast their ‘passion projects’ — an idea that might appeal to the Sussexes.
Exactly how much the Obamas made from the deal is unclear, but a similar move may prove a useful source of influence, if not income, for the Duke and Duchess.
In the meantime, the Sussexes could look to the Obamas for other guidance. Meghan’s good friend Michelle advised her when she guest-edited Vogue, while Barack Obama agreed to be interviewed by his pal Prince Harry when the latter guest-edited BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The Obamas could also explain how they can work the enormously lucrative U.S. speaking circuit. Though after becoming a United Nations advocate for gender equality issues, Meghan joined a speakers’ agency and was said to have been able to charge $20,000 per appearance — not bad for an actress far removed from the A-list.
Jeff Jacobson, co-founder of the Talent Bureau speaking agency, said Prince Harry could make up to $500,000 per appearance.
THE BEST FRIEND AND ‘FIXER’
Just in case the Sussexes don’t have enough well-connected celebrity friends across the Pond, the Duchess can always rely on her best friend, Jessica Mulroney.
The Canadian stylist and wedding planner — who is married to Ben Mulroney, son of former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney — is a supremely effective self-publicist. She will fill in any gaps in Meghan’s Canada contacts book.
Hollywood agent Nick Collins (pictured, with actress Amy Forsyth), of The Gersh Agency, whose clients include Tobey Maguire, Kristen Stewart and Adam Driver, is reportedly ‘filtering’ film, TV and philanthropy-related opportunities that come the couple’s way
Mrs Mulroney is also a friend of the Canadian dubbed the Sussexes’ ‘fixer’ — David Foster, a musician and producer with strong showbusiness and political connections.
Married to Katharine McPhee, whom Meghan has known since school, he arranged for the Sussexes to stay at the Vancouver Island mansion.
The Oprah Effect
While many in Hollywood have been falling over themselves to get into the Sussex camp, Oprah, the hugely influential TV queen who the couple cannily invited to their wedding, could be particularly useful.
Meghan is understood to regard Oprah as a ‘role model’ and her closeness to the Sussexes was illustrated when the Duchess’s mother, Doria, was invited to do yoga on the lawn of her £35 million California home.
Meanwhile, Oprah (above) has already got Harry a berth as presenter and executive producer on a series about mental health on Apple TV+. Apple hasn’t said whether the Duke is being paid, although it was understood he wouldn’t personally profit.
Oprah’s best friend, CBS broadcaster Gayle King, will also be hugely useful in the battle to win hearts in the U.S. She has reportedly secured the first TV interview with the Sussexes once they properly move to North America.
The bank of Dad is draining Charles: RICHARD KAY on how the Prince of Wales has had to dip into his own private reserves and give Harry and William around £2.5 million each
As fireworks arced across the night sky over Windsor Great Park, Prince Charles oozed with paternal pride.
‘My darling old Harry, I’m so happy for you,’ he had declared in his father-of-the-groom speech as the lavish celebrations for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding moved to its extravagant finale.
Fast forward 12 months and the Prince of Wales was in a rather less benign mood as he leafed through pages of accounts relating to his son’s expenditure.
The bills for the wedding, the bills relating to the considerable sums spent on fixtures and fittings at the Sussexes’ home Frogmore Cottage — quite distinct from the taxpayer-funded structural renovations — and the ongoing bills for Harry and Meghan’s allowance that he also provides, were adding up.
Prince Charles is pictured above walking Meghan Markle down the aisle on the day of her wedding to his son Prince Harry
Sources now say the money Charles pays to his sons is ‘draining him’ Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Savannah Phillips and Prince George of Cambridge
Beyond a frown, he gave little away. ‘His attitude is always just pay what needs to be paid and move on,’ says a former aide. ‘It’s usually the path of least resistance when it’s to do with the boys.’
But those familiar with some of the eye-watering numbers which have crossed the royal desk at Clarence House say there is another side to the story.
One figure went so far as to say that the money he spends, not just on Harry and Meghan but also on financing William and Kate, was ‘draining him’.
Officially, the brothers and their households are funded out of Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall estate, but, in fact, the Prince has at times had to dip into his own private reserves.
Insiders speak of the ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ the Prince made available to furnish the couple’s Windsor home (Frogmore Cottage above) after their decision to abandon Kensington Palace
It is thought the last time he had to do that on a significant level was in meeting Princess Diana’s £17.5 million divorce settlement in 1996, for which he also had to borrow from the Queen.
Within a year following Diana’s death, that money, minus inheritance tax handed over to the Treasury, had ironically been transferred into trusts for his sons.
Against this backdrop it is no wonder that the Prince has been so dismayed by Harry’s decision to turn his back on life within the Royal Family for an increasingly uncertain future outside it.
One of his central worries is just how — or rather who — is going to finance their new lives.
Money may not be the root of this crisis, but it is contingent to it. In announcing their decision to stand down as senior royals, the couple said it was their intention to be financially independent.
While this certainly represents a headache for the monarchy with its thinly disguised inference that Harry and Meghan may become royals for sale, Prince Charles’s money-men may be privately relieved.
At one stage he was paying the Sussexes more than William and his family. That figure is now understood to be around the same, with Harry and William each receiving approximately £2.5 million.
However, the Prince has let it be known that his funds are not inexhaustible and that there is a limit to how far and how much he can pay.
Insiders speak of the ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ the Prince made available to furnish the couple’s Windsor home after their decision to abandon Kensington Palace.
This was in addition to the £2.4 million of public money used to convert the 19th century property from five staff flats into a single home.
‘As for the wedding, it cost him a small fortune,’ a source said. ‘They were not small sums.’
From the Michelin-starred caterers who provided the evening’s black-tie dinner for 200, and the glass marquee, to the festival-themed food stalls and bars and cars and coaches to ferry the guests around, it was all paid for by the Prince.
According to a source, the figures involved in providing for both boys have in recent times been flagged up to the Prince by his accounting staff on more than one occasion.
‘There’s usually a raised eyebrow, but the Prince always just signs them off,’ says the source.
All the same, he has made it clear that while he will continue to fund his sons, there can be, as one courtier put it, ‘no blank cheque’.